Museums – our national genius

PompeiiI may frequently express criticisms about their finer workings but British museums and galleries are generally superbly run. Heroic efforts are made to minimise the impact of funding cuts so that even regular visitors will notice little or no impact. From looking at the


outward face of
our museums you would never guess the country was in anything like the mess the numbers would indicate. They open on time: they have excellent facilities; their staffs are visible, willing and helpful; their experts are sought after the world over;

they are clean; they have disability access to the ceiling; their bookshelves google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; cater to all types of reader and interest; and their collections are by and large well maintained, sensitively google_ad_height = 90; exhibited and most supply informative captions. Many of them have for centuries been kept open free of charge for everyone, often against all odds and arguments. They are exemplary resorts of enlightened thinking about education and the preservation of history. This quiet effectiveness is a substantial achievement which is easy to take for granted. The truth is that when it comes to museums, in Britain we have
been spoilt.

This native genius was recognised recently when

the Italian Culture Minister announced a fundamental shake-up in his own country’s major museums by throwing open twenty directorships to all-comers. Heading the published lists of dream candidates were
many Britons. That Italy desperately needs help running its museums can not be in any doubt in the minds
of those who

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have recently visited that country.

Newspapers have lately reported that

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Pompeii is at last rising from the ashes of


incompetence and corrupt administration. Having been partially rescued from beneath the sludge of AD79, in recent years other man-made ravages have befallen this astounding place –  structures have collapsed, excavation has ceased, and the site has been subjected to looting and vandalism. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; All of that, we are proudly informed, is now in the past. Sanity has set in and the place is safe in Italian hands. Millions of euros (doubtless originating in Germany) are being lavished to turn Pompeii google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; into less than the unloved disgrace it has been in the recent past.

Don’t believe a word of it. If Pompeii is typical of how Italy runs its museums – and it does seem to be – no wonder British and German experts are being wooed, because even organising the basics efficiently defeats Italians.

The situation is hopeless and it starts as soon as

you arrive. Gates open half an hour late, which especially annoys those scores who have arrived early


to steal a march on a punishing
summer sun. Once admitted, crowds jostle forever to buy a ticket because only two people are taking


money. Matters are made worse because neither has any change. They accept only the correct money which must involve coins. In Italy it is virtually impossible to have coins not least because no one will give them to you: they hoard them like juju beads. The inevitable chaos is entirely avoidable and compounded when concessionary cards are not accepted unless accompanied by a passport. Endless negotiations ensue with each now sweating and thoroughly

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exasperated visitor. You then try the bookshop for a guide and detailed map. They don’t have any change either and diagrams in the Blue Guide are better than the childish plan costing a euro. So extreme is the provocative indifference of staff it can only be intended as a calculated insult. It’s as though they don’t want you here.

In general museum bookshops and cafés are, throughout Italy, not seen as important revenue earners or as crucial a part of further education as we treat them in Britain. At Reggio’s museum they provide a rudimentary brochure for 7 euros about the

Riace bronzes, the most precious sculptures of the ancient Greek world. Many of those making the trek to this furthest bunion of //--> land will be willing to pay a

on thoroughfares
which rapidly become Wembley Way on google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; cup final day.

At the farthest extremities of the site there are no services. There is nowhere to sit comfortably or to buy the

fluid necessary when, google_ad_height = 90; as on my recent visit, the temperature soars beyond forty degrees centigrade. There are water fountains if you are prepared to trust the